Family and Migration: An Ethical Challenge

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In the last decades, family has gained a very important role, for both the extension of the research field of migration studies and the rethinking of integration models within the receiving society: the challenge is to adopt a new analytical perspective, represented by the family and its strategies to survive and develop, a fundamental decisional unit in the domain of migration choices, strategies, and behaviours. According to various influential contemporary theoretical perspectives, family is usually the decision-making unity or –at any rate– the institution on the behalf of which the choice to emigrate is made and which “utilizes” its members for its needs of survival and development. Family is also the agency that receives and manages the precious flow of remittances coming from family members working abroad, determining its impact on the economies of the sending communities: in this sense, family is a strategic actor for the economic and social development of the sending countries and can activate forms of co-operation and support. Thanks to the revenues produced by their parents and other family members working abroad, new generations can achieve high levels of education, with a positive impact on the process of human capital accumulation and development. On the other hand, family can also be the source of processes of coercion and conflicting dynamics that may become causes or consequences of migration. Moreover, left-behind families and especially children represent a dramatic phenomenon, challenging both the public and the religious institutions, because of the social, educative, psychological and moral costs it can produce. Finally, obeying to family economic wellbeing, contemporary migrations could generate deep human and social costs, making it particularly manifest the possible tensions among the different components –economic, social, cultural and spiritual– of development [Caritas in Veritate, n. 31]. On the other shore of the migratory process, family reveals to be a factor that strongly influences the evolution of migratory projects and supports the process of migrants’ integration, even if it sometimes imposes a “generational sacrifice” in order to assure the (presumed) best chances to the members of the other generations. The lack of family relations and support makes dysfunctional behaviours more likely, such as alcoholism, deviance and drug addiction. On the other hand, family reunion, particularly if realized after long periods of separation, can reveal itself a difficult or even traumatic experience for the individuals involved, suggesting the need for a special support to be given to the families by both the origin and the receiving societies. Migrant offspring, particularly if belonging to low status families, are especially exposed to the risk of school failure and professional underachievement. Moreover, from the standpoint of the hosting society, the presence of migrant families is surely a phenomenon that transforms the impact and significance of migration, translating an economic issue into a political one. Particularly in countries that have institutionalized the “guest worker” model, the presence of families completely redefines the assessment of the cost/benefit trade-off generated by migration, obliging educational and welfare institutions to face new needs and new challenges. At the same time, this same presence could enrich school offer –thanks to the opportunity to develop intercultural awareness and intercultural changes and dialogue– and even stimulate welfare regimes to adapt themselves to the novel structure of social risks and social needs, as it has been emerging in a global and “mobile” society. Lastly, as far as Christian communities are concerned, the presence of families coming from abroad can be seen as an authentic prophetic opportunity to assess their catholicity and search for their true, universal face. Notwithstanding the fac
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteCreating a Future. Family as the Fabric of Society
Numero di pagine26
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2014


  • famiglia
  • family
  • international migration
  • migration policy
  • migrazioni internazionali
  • politiche migratorie


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